If you ask most smokers why they first started lighting up – or when it became a nicotine addiction – they might find it hard to give an exact answer. Some got hooked on cigarettes as teens. Others eased into it as adults. But if you ask people why they should kick their tobacco habit to the curb, most can give a list of reasons why it’s bad for them.
They may be worried about the fact that tobacco use can cause cancer or lung disease. They might be concerned about heart attacks, high blood pressure, or other serious health issues.
Cost is also a big factor in why people want to dump their smokes. A pack of cigarettes costs about $8. If someone has a pack-a-day habit, they’re puffing through about $3,000 each year.
There are still more than a billion smokers in the world. Studies have shown the majority of people who consider themselves addicted to nicotine would like to quit, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Each year, about half of smokers try to kick the habit for good. But the success rate continues to be low – only about 6% of smokers each year quit permanently.
Why is tobacco so hard to quit?
Nicotine is a highly-addictive chemical compound found in tobacco. It is just as addictive as heroin, according to the American Heart Association, yet cigarettes are readily available in almost every gas station, supermarket and corner store. Smoking releases dopamine in a person’s brain, giving them a pleasurable feeling. But that is short-lived, and going without that next nicotine fix can leave people feeling depressed or anxious. So, they light up another one.
But if you are a smoker who is looking to quit, there are ways to set yourself up for the best chance of success. Here are some tips to help you prepare:
Make a quit plan
The first several days after someone quits smoking are often the most difficult. Cravings and nicotine withdrawal symptoms are at their worst during that time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends having a quit plan, which includes setting a specific date and having a list of reasons why giving up smoking is important to you.
Know your triggers
There can be emotional or social triggers that push people to smoke. To quit successfully, the CDC suggests knowing what situations trigger you to reach for a cigarette so you can avoid them during the first several days or plan to work around those. For example, people used to smoking after dinner could try taking an evening walk or calling a friend instead. Those who smoke when they are bored may want to plan out activities for that first week to keep themselves busier than normal.
Prepare to handle withdrawal
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms can be physically uncomfortable. A person who quits smoking may feel anxious, edgy, have trouble sleeping or be hungrier than normal. The good news is that most of these symptoms will ease after the first week, and don’t pose a health risk, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Try a personal coach
Need some help to get started? Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network members are eligible for the Quit Tobacco Digital Health Assistant. This online coaching program helps people set achievable goals, one week at a time.
To access Digital Health Assistant programs:
- Log in to your member account at bcbsm.com.
- Click on the Health & Well-Being tab, then click on WebMD.
- Click on the My Health Assistant card on the Resources page.
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